Despite riding an eight-fight win streak this time last year, which included triumphs over Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson, not many would have expected Oliveira to accomplish the feats he did in 2021.
After Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement, “Do Bronx” found himself opposite relative newcomer Chandler in a battle for 155-pound gold at UFC 262. After five minutes of main event action, Oliveira had been knocked down, beaten, and almost finished. Less than 20 seconds into round two, though, and the Brazilian turned the tide and TKO’d the former Bellator champion.
While the championship crowning was heart-warming and an incredible resurrection from his previous inconsistencies, it hadn’t done enough to earn favorite status for his opening defense against Dustin Poirier. But at UFC 269, Oliveira upset the odds yet again, submitting “The Diamond” in the third round.
The reigning lightweight king will look to extend his reign this year by defeating dangerous top contender Gaethje. The pair are slated to meet at UFC 274 on May 7.
Michael Chandler: Oliveira Has Come Back From The Dead
Gaethje secured his position as number one contender over the likes of Beneil Dariush and Islam Makhachev by getting the better of Chandler in a Fight of the Year-worthy contest last November at UFC 268. Having failed to reach the undisputed throne in a unification showdown against Khabib in 2019, “The Highlight” will hope it’s second-time lucky later this year.
But in his way will be a veteran of the sport who has proven everyone wrong in his recent outings. During an episode of DC & RC, Chandler praised Oliveira’s resurgence from a 10-8-1 record in his first 19 Octagon appearances to 10-0 since his loss to Paul Felder in 2017.
“I think a lot of people would agree with me when I say that I would not have given Charles Oliveira a chance at beating Justin Gaethje up until about the last 12 months,” said Chandler. “Charles Oliveira has come back, essentially from the dead; resurrected his career from the dead.“
“He was spotty up and down, could never be relied upon when it came to performances, and just, the way that he has turned into a deadly striker, as well as one of the greatest submission artists that the sport has ever seen, as well as going out there and finishing myself, going out there and finishing Dustin Poirier; that kind of stuff comes with a little bit of added extra confidence with each time he steps inside of the Octagon,” added Chandler.
Having faced both men in 2021, the #5-ranked Chandler is in a unique position to provide a prediction for the next lightweight title clash. While he knows full well how dangerous Gaethje can be, “Iron” believes Oliveira has “too many tools.”
“I think he’s gonna be the most confident Charles Oliveira that we have ever seen, after the year of 2021 that we just saw and him gaining that title and then defending that title, when he steps inside the Octagon against Justin Gaethje. But Justin Gaethje, we all know he’s a killer.
“I think it’s an extremely exciting fight. I still think I give the edge to Charles Oliveira, to be honest. He just has too many tools. And we all know how Justin Gaethje can win. But Charles Oliveira has also proven a lot of us and a lot of the doubters wrong, that he can be in there in those wars. He’s a lot tougher and a lot more resilient than we thought he was,” concluded Chandler.
While Oliveira’s reign advances towards a date with the #1-ranked lightweight on May 7, Chandler will be hoping to secure a potential rematch against either man in his own next appearance against Tony Ferguson on the same date.
Should the 35-year-old’s prediction come true at UFC 274, perhaps he’ll have the chance to exact revenge on Oliveira for their UFC 262 clash before the year is out.